Is Gibraltar worth visiting? Even if you just have one day in Gibraltar, it absolutely is. This tiny British overseas territory on Spain’s south coast is famous for and dominated by The Rock of Gibraltar, a 426m-high limestone ridge, and the monkeys that live there. But there’s more to it. People who live in Gibraltar either love or hate this curious little dot of Britain. Let’s find out why!
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Need To Know Facts About Gibraltar
1. English is the official language
So if you speak English (which we’re assuming you do if you’re reading this) that makes things super easy . No need to bring a dictionary (do people still use those?) or use a translation app, every person in Gibraltar does speak English.
2. It’s part of the European Union, but…
It is outside the Schengen Zone, and there is no VAT (value added tax). What does that mean? It means TAX FREE SHOPPING!
3. It’s official currency is the British Pound
Maybe you spend one day in Gibraltar on a trip traveling the European continent. You have a wallet full of Euros, but that won’t help you here. The good news is, credit cards are widely accepted, and you can exchange money at the border if you would like to carry some cash.
4. It has the fifth highest density of any country or territory in the world
This is one of the reasons some people dislike Gib (as it’s lovingly called by locals). It’s is VERY crowded, and very busy, any time of the day, and any time of the year.
5. They drive on the right
Traffic is intense. The speed limit is 50 km/h, but that means nothing. I can tell a story of how wild people drive myself, as I got hit by a car when riding my bicycle there (adhering to all traffic rules and being very careful). The police are so used to accidents, they may not pay too much attention, unless you are bleeding from a head wound. (One stopped after I got hit, asked if I needed an ambulance, and when I said ‘I don’t think so’ left the scene.) With that in mind, walk or take a cab, wherever you go.
If you do decide to drive, note that, even though you are technically in Britain, you need to drive on the right side of the road! Roads are narrow, and there are loads of pedestrians, many of them tourists, which are known to be distracted by the sights and sounds.
One Day In Gibraltar
Do you only have one day in Gibraltar? That’s just the right amount of time to love this place, and see everything you need to see. Again, even if you do have a car, you are better off parking it on the Spanish side of the border. Gibraltar is very walkable, and if you want to visit The Rock, you can book a tour or catch a cab and save you the trouble of not just driving in Gib, but parking as well.
Let’s start with the obvious. The Rock is not just obvious because it’s what Gibraltar is most famous for, but also because it’s literally obvious. It’s so big, it takes up a large chunk of this tiny territory. It’s a ways away from the border, however, if you are fit and don’t mind the temperatures if you visit in the summer, you can absolutely walk. But there are always plenty of cabs around, so don’t be shy and flag one down to conserve your energy to explore The Rock, especially if you only have one day in Gibraltar.
There are three ways to go about visiting The Rock: Book a tour or take a cab to the top. Take a cable car. Or hike up the backside on the Mediterranean steps.
There’s an entrance fee for the Upper Rock Nature Reserve and its attractions. Adults pay 13 and children 8 GBP.
What to expect
Expect monkeys! Did you know that Gibraltar has the only wild monkey population in continental Europe? The Barbary Macaques are not just cute, but also very interested in anything edible you might be carrying, and they are not shy trying to get it. It’s not allowed to feed the monkeys, and it’s even an offense punishable by law. They are quite used to people, so you’ll get some nice shots with monkeys in the backgrounds without coaxing them in with a banana.
There are a lot of different birds you can spot, too, from White Storks to Egyptian Vultures, Greater Spotted Eagles and many more. Bird lovers should bring along binoculars! More elusive inhabitants of the Nature Reserve are Mouse Eared Bats, Red Foxes, and European rabbits.
Keep your eyes open for wildflowers! Honeysuckle, Chickweed, Thyme, Candy Tuft, Jasmine, and Lavender are dotting the area.
Things to do on the Rock
If you only spend one day in Gibraltar and are planning some time for shopping etc., I would recommend you book a tour. They are very affordable, and you have the added benefit of a knowledgeable local, which is always great! In just about 2 hours you will see everything The Rock has to offer and more – but we’ll get to that in a minute. Fun fact: you don’t have to sit stuffed in a van like sardines. E-bike tours are also available!
If shopping doesn’t interest you that much and you want to escape the hustle and bustle, I recommend hiking up the Mediterranean steps to the summit. This nature trail is like magic. Walk just a short distance and all the noise disappears. You will be rewarded for your efforts (elevation gain of 1,398 feet) with a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea! On a clear day, you may even be able to see the top of the Rif Mountains of Morocco.
Alternatively, you can take the cable car to the summit. If you are so inclined, you can combine the cable car ride with a dolphin excursion!
Getting there is half the fun, and whichever way you make it to the Top of the Rock, you’ll find plenty of things to do there. The St. Michael’s cave, a natural lime stone cave that features a light show, is a must. The Moorish castle offers panoramic views. The Ape’s Den is a place where the monkeys like to gather – great for pictures, but don’t get too close to these wild animals. The Great Siege Tunnels are a historic defense system that’s exciting to check out. A bit lower you will find the World War II Tunnels.
Next, head to the southernmost point of Gibraltar – Europa Point. You’ll have stunning views of the Mediterranean, and will be able to see Northern Africa on a clear day. It’s reachable via Europa Road. But that’s not all.
The first thing you’ll notice is the stunning Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, also known as the Mosque of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. It’s one of the biggest mosques in a non-Muslim country, as well as the southernmost mosque in Europe. Visitors are allowed at certain times, so make sure you check if you are planning a visit, and note that all visitors must dress modestly.
Harding’s Battery, also known as Harding’s Fort, is a fully restored artillery battery. Take a look around and be transported back in time!
The Shrine of Our Lady of Europe is a mosque that was converted into a Catholic church in 1462. It was the original Gibraltar lighthouse. Check out the museum depicting the Shrine’s history.
See the new Europa Point lighthouse, inaugurated on August 1, 1841. It’s been fully automated since 1994, guiding seafarers safely to shore.
Don’t miss Nun’s Well! This ancient underground water cistern is thought to be over 700 years old, and represents some of the earliest evidence of artificial water supply in Gib.
Last but not least, stop by the Sikorski Memorial which commemorates the B-24 crash of July 4, 1943. It ended the life of commander-in-chief of the Polish Army, and prime minister of the Polish government in exile, General Władysław Sikorski.
Conveniently located at the foot of The Rock, the Botanic Gardens are a great place for a relaxed stroll. The gardens are open from 8 am until sunset every day, admission is free, and guided tours are available to those interested in learning all about the flora of Gibraltar. You can admire species from Mediterranean and arid habitat which are cultivated for conservation and scientific purposes. Don’t miss the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park, located within the Botanic Gardens. The animals are kept solely for rescue and conservation purposes.
Visit the Town
Since Gibraltar is very walkable, I suggest you take a guided walking tour! I love guided walking tours. They usually aren’t super long, which is handy if you only spend one day in Gibraltar, but they give you a good overview of the place. You also have the option to book a private photo walking tour, either at the Northern Defences or at the Botanic Gardens.
After that, hit Main Street. This is where all the shopping happens! I’ve already mentioned the fact that shopping is duty free, so this is your chance to load up on whatever you need. There’s a huge selection of shops, selling everything from liquor to clothes, from souvenirs to jewelry, from cosmetics to electronics. Just remember, when you return home you’ll have to answer to customs, so make sure you are familiar with the restrictions in your home country!
At the end of Main Street you’ll find Grand Casemates Square. It’s the larger one of the two town squares, and is effectively the gateway to the city center. Here you’ll find some shops, but also many pubs and restaurants. More about that later.
The Gibraltar National Museum is a fine place to cool off and learn about history. Admission is only 5 GBP for adults, 2.50 for children under 12, and free for kids younger than 5.
Hit the Beach
If you have no more than one day in Gibraltar, you probably won’t want to spend your time sunbathing. But if you do have more time, Catalan Bay is the place to be. This fishing village on the eastern side of The Rock, away from the city, is picturesque and quiet, and you can spend as much time relaxing on its sandy shore as you want. There are a number of beaches on the eastern side, all which are sandier than the ones on the western side, which tend to be rockier.
Admire yachts at Ocean Village
Gibraltar is a popular hangout for yachties from all over the world. You will get to see lots of them at the two marinas at Ocean Village. Dine at one of the 20 or so restaurants, have a nice drink at one of the many bars, or get some excellent coffee. Play a few hands of poker at Casino Admiral.
If you are planning to spend more than one day in Gibraltar, stay at the Sunborn Gibraltar, a retired cruise ship! There are other hotels around, but if you are looking for a unique stay and world-class service, this is it!
Unusual Things to do in Gibraltar
We’ve covered all the touristy things. But if you want to do more unusual things in Gibraltar, we also got you covered!
- Attend an event at St. Michael’s Cave. St. Michael’s is not just a cave, it’s an event location! Imagine how amazing it would be to see a concert there! Check the list of upcoming events here.
- Walk across an airport runway. The Gibraltar airport is one of the only airports in the world that allows people to do so – in this case, it’s unavoidable! While it may seem unsafe, don’t worry, it isn’t.
- See the Pillars of Hercules. These are the Rock of Gibraltar to the north, and Jebel Musa in Morocco to the south. Legend has it that Hercules, rather than crossing the Atlas mountains, stamped his foot and thus created the Straights of Gibraltar.
- Face your fears and walk the skywalk and the suspension bridge!
- Enjoy Spanish food. Huh? Yes, Gibraltar is British, but there’s a lot of Spanish influence. Join a tapas tour and try the best Spanish food Gib has to offer!
- Walk the Union Jack Steps. Located at the bottom of Devil’s Gap Road you’ll find steps that commemorate the outcome of Gibraltar’s 1967 referendum in which Gibraltarians had the choice to have Spanish sovereignty and retain their British passports, or to remain under British sovereignty and self-governance.
- Got gin? Gibraltar has its very own distillery! Alcohol connoisseurs won’t want to miss this!
- Charter a sailboat! What’s a better way to spend half a day or one day in Gibraltar than sailing on the beautiful Mediterranean?
- Book a session with a photographer and come away with lasting memories.
- Visit Trafalgar Cemetery, supposedly used to bury the fallen men of the Battle of Trafalgar. Curiously, there’s only a handful of those men buried here. Nevertheless, it’s a very picturesque cemetery, well worth the visit.
Free things to do in Gibraltar
On a budget? Don’t worry, there are plenty of free things to do in Gibraltar!
- Wander around Europa Point.
- Visit the Botanic Gardens.
- Stroll on Main Street.
- Enjoy the hustle and bustle at Casemates Square.
- Walk through Ocean Village.
- Go to the beach.
- Visit Trafalgar Cemetery.
- Have a picnic at Commonwealth Park.
- Admire the Cathedral St. Mary the Crowned and King’s Chapel.
- Walk by the Gibraltar Parliament.
The Perfect One Day In Gibraltar Itinerary
As you now know, there’s a ton of stuff to do. If you only plan to spend one day in Gibraltar, I recommend the following itinerary:
While the first point of interest you hit after crossing the border is the city center, I do not recommend you start there. It’s too easy to get lost in all the fun there and miss what you really came here to see: the monkeys! Therefore, I recommend you start your one day in Gibraltar at The Rock. While the hike up the Mediterranean Steps is amazing, I recommend you take the cable car instead so you’ll have plenty of time to see everything up there and get to stroll through town, too. Taking the cable car is a fun experience, and you’ll have a great view, too!
Narrow down the attractions you want to see on Top of the Rock. Ape’s Den is a must, and I highly recommend you don’t miss St. Michael’s Cave. On the way back to town, hit the Botanic Gardens and Trafalgar Cemetery. This will easily fill the first half of your day. Do not, under any circumstances, miss Europa Point. It’s a beautiful place to see!
Afterwards, head back to Grand Casemate Square. Here you can have lunch in a nice atmosphere and do all the people watching you want. While you literally have the culinary world at your fingertips, I highly recommend eating at Roy’s Fish and Chips, which is an institution in Gibraltar!
Burn off that fish and chips by wandering through the city center. It’s not very big, and you can easily see a lot of the attractions mentioned above. You should hit Main Street last, but make sure you allow plenty of time for shopping. I recommend this to be the last item on your agenda, because you don’t want to do too much walking packed with goodies!
And that’s it! You can see how easily you can fill one day in Gibraltar – or a weekend! If you are visiting Southern Spain, you can easily book a day tour as well. Many tours will pick you up at your hotel in Marbella or Malaga and spend one full day showing you all the highlights of Gibraltar.
While the hectic life in Gibraltar can be quite stressful, it’s also very unique in many ways. Don’t hesitate to spend one day in Gibraltar! From there, it’s just a quick hop to Morocco, a destination worth visiting. Check out our ultimate Morocco travel guide!
Jenny grew up in Germany. All she ever wanted out of life was to leave and have adventures. Jenny always traveled as much as the budget would allow, and when she met her husband traveling became a full-time thing. You can follow Jenny on her blog and Facebook.